By Sister Kathleen Murphy
In the year 1930, my parents were married in St. Anne’s Church on the east side of Buffalo, New York. The magnificent Gothic style church was built more than 160 years ago by German immigrants. My maternal grandfather was a carpenter, and I think that he may have done some of the beautiful woodwork throughout the church. Sadly, the church closed exactly 150 years after its construction during the time of consolidations and closings of parishes as part of the Journey of Faith and Grace in the Diocese of Buffalo.
About ten or 15 years before St. Anne’s closed, I participated in a Mass there and remained in the church alone for quiet prayer. In the presence of no one except Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, I prayed my rosary for my deceased parents and then slowly walked down the long aisle toward the main altar imagining what it was like for my mother to do that on her wedding day. I could almost feel her heart beating within my chest.
In gratitude for the parish church in which my mother grew up and was married, and in which I witnessed the weddings of many of my younger aunts and uncles, and yes, a cousin or two, I share this reflection. In honor of Saints Anne and Joachim, the reflection is a memorial to the couple identified by tradition as the parents of the Virgin Mary. The celebration of these two saints gives us a reason to rejoice in the gift of family life and to reflect on the mutual responsibility parents and children have to love one another and lead one another to holiness.
Sirach 7:28 says, “Remember, of these parents you were born; what can you give them for all they gave you?”
Over the years, I am sure all of us have tried to give back what we could, expressing our love and gratitude to those who brought us to birth and formed us in our faith.
In the reading from Sirach, he says, “Now will I praise these godly men, (and may I add, women) our ancestors, each in their own time.” He tells us that our ancestors live on for all generations. Their heritage remains with their descendants, and for all time their progeny will endure, their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are peacefully laid away, but their names live on and on.
When I was about 11 years of age, I learned in English class about immortal books. One evening in that period of time, my father who had all daughters and no sons was bemoaning the fact that his family name would not be passed on. I told him sincerely not to worry, that I would write an immoral book. (He laughed and told me that that would certainly keep our name alive!)
All joking aside, I believe that my married sisters through the faith formation of their children, and we, as consecrated religious and as educators, have passed on learned lessons from our parents, and they from theirs going back countless generations.
As Anne and Joachim formed Mary in her faith, so she and Joseph formed Jesus; so have we been formed by our parents and grandparents as have countless generations been formed. We continue to pass on our faith to the next generations. As Alfred Lord Tennyson so beautifully put it in his poem, “Bugle Song,” “Our echoes roll from soul to soul and grow forever and forever.
”The Gospel proclaims Jesus is telling us that we are blessed. Our eyes are blessed because they see and our ears are blessed because they hear.
What might you remember that you saw your parents/grandparents do for you that formed you in your faith? What might you remember that you heard them say?
Those of you who are parents/grandparents, how are you passing on your faith to your children and their children? How are the rest of us passing on our faith, and to whom are we passing it on?
Sisters and brothers, we are blessed. We must believe and respond accordingly. We are conduits of God’s love for one another.
We are aware that our desire to be here in prayer is first God’s desire that we pray.
Our love for God is in response to God’s love for us. In the scheme of things, we are not initiators, but responders. We see and hear how much we are loved by our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and we respond by our willingness to embrace our loving God.
“Our echoes roll from soul to soul and grow forever and forever.”